Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. [Psalm 100:1-2 (ESV)]

The surest mark of a Christian is not faith, or even love, but joy.[ Samuel M. Shoemaker]

great blue heronWhen we retired, we joked that our pill boxes were the only way we knew the day of the week. Now that we’re sheltering in place, that is more true than funny. For young and old alike, the days are blending one into the other with the only difference between yesterday and today being the news (which just seems to gets worse).

While COVID-19 is an enemy lurking at our door, chances are another enemy has already entered our lives: common garden variety depression—what I call the glums and gloomies. As the days wear on, it’s harder to see the bright side of life. Built for community, we now live in a world where kisses are weapons and we show our love by staying away from one another! Instead of hoarding toilet paper and bleach wipes, we wish we’d stockpiled hugs. We’d happily trade a bottle of hand sanitizer just to cuddle with a grand for a minute or shake a friend’s hand.

This prolonged isolation reminds me of a winter spent at our mountain home back in 1997. Having broken my knee the first day on the slopes, my mobility was severely limited. In spite of having hung up my skis for the season, I maintained good spirits until my husband and son departed for two weeks on business. Although they left me well stocked with food and a stack of library books, it was just me, my crutches, and the four walls for the duration and the glums and gloomies descended in full force. In one of those beautiful God-incidences, I happened upon an Oprah show about keeping a gratitude journal. Since my days were all the same, writing down five things for which I was grateful every day was a challenge at first. But, once I started, it got easier as I found joy in little everyday things: seeing a cardinal on the back deck, getting a phone call, reading a good book, or sipping cocoa by the fire on a snowy night! That gratitude journal was my life-line to sanity (and continues to be one today) because it moved my focus from me and my misery to God and His goodness.

When the glums and gloomies visited one of my friends fourteen years ago, she made a list of the things that gave her joy and ended up with about fifty things—none of which cost money. As with my gratitude journal, her entries weren’t deep spiritual thoughts: just simple things like hearing her little grand’s giggle, balancing her checkbook on the first try, or seeing her golf ball miss the water hazard. Although she’s made a few revisions and additions to the list through the years, she still pulls out her catalog of joy whenever she feels depression knocking at her door! I imagine she’s been looking at it a lot nowadays.

It’s easy to be grateful when life is good but, when life takes a downhill slide into discouragement or despair, gratitude doesn’t come naturally—certainly not easily. Nevertheless, it’s worth the effort. Even though the world has gone topsy turvy, we can be thankful because our sovereign God, a God who loves and cherishes us, is firmly in control. We can be thankful that, even though we are apart from one another, we are not alone; we are united in Christ with other believers. We can be thankful because we have the hope given to us by Jesus. We may not feel grateful for all that has occurred but we can be grateful by choosing to look beyond our circumstances. We don’t have to be thankful for this pandemic but we can practice being thankful in the midst of it.

Between the horror of this pandemic and the sameness of our days, we must be intentional about gratitude and joy and open our eyes to God’s many blessings. An attitude of gratitude, even in our trials, is what distinguishes us as Christians. What would you write in a gratitude journal today? What would be in your catalog of joy?

The Christian who walks with the Lord and keeps constant communion with Him will see many reason for rejoicing and thanksgiving all day long.[Warren Wiersbe]

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.  [Psalm 100:4-5 (NLT)]

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